ASEAN Games Australia 2015: Underdogs Khmer Fighters win Volleyball tournament

COMPETING as a team for the first time together in any competition, Cambodian underdogs Khmer Fighters walked away as champions in ASEAN Games Australia’s Volleyball tournament. Lya Susanto brings you the story behind the team.

Photo: Lya Susanto

Photo: Lya Susanto

The ASEAN Games Volleyball tournament held at MSAC, Albert Park on September 26 was intense and unpredictable. Many expected standing Malaysian champions Ashgry and the Philippines’ Team Australia to lead the way to the finals but it was Cambodian underdogs Khmer Fighters who shocked spectators and competitors alike when they walked away as the champions.

Participating in a tournament for the first time as a team, the Cambodian competitors admitted they did not have much ambition prior to the competition. Though some members of the team have previously participated in tournaments prior to the ASEAN Games, half of the group had not pursued volleyball seriously.

Despite some of its team members having only met for the first time the day of the competition, their chemistry as a team suggested otherwise. After getting a bit of practice early in the morning hours before the competition they would later go on to demonstrate some remarkable teamwork and sportsmanship — effortlessly wrestling their way into the finals.

Formed through their friends’ connections and shared love for volleyball, the Cambodian group breakthrough performance surprised everyone, including themselves.

Photo: Lya Susanto

Photo: Lya Susanto

Sovanna Keng, the only female player in the Khmer Fighters, confessed it was challenging to keep her stamina up for the day-long tournament.

When the going got tough, the team showcased tremendous wit and talent, winning two sets to one. Khmer Fighters managed to bounce back in the third set, defeating Ashgry in the finals.

When asked about their ambitions and future goals, the Cambodian team admitted that they would like to join more competitions in the future. The experience of competing in the ASEAN Games has motivated them to play not just to win a title or to gain status but to further their fun and health.

“We are so excited for the competition. It gives us different experiences, [oppurtunities] to observe and learn the different strategies [of the game]. [We can see] what other people do well and learn from them so [that] we can improve and develop for other games in the future,” Sovanna Keng explained.

“Of course we welcome anyone who [is] passionate about volleyball to join our team as long as they have fun and like to exercise,” she added.

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